Machine protection specialist Beakbane is supplying a range of bespoke covers and bellows to protect axis drives across Zeeko’s range of multi-axis, ultra-precision CNC polishing machines.

Beakbane’s equipment is already used across many of the Zeeko range of Intelligent Robotic Polishers (IRP) and will be used on all new machines. Zeeko’s machines are used to polish and to control the shape of optics (and other artefacts such as moulds and replacement hip joints) for a wide variety of industries worldwide. Their range of IRP machines includes equipment capable of polishing to nanometre accuracy on parts ranging from 1.5mm across up to 2.4m in diameter.
Beakbane supplies Zeeko with a complete kit of covers and bellows for a machine. Depending on the machine’s configuration, this will typically include fabricated telescopic stainless steel covers and supports for the Y-axis drives on the machine bed, welded polyurethane/polyester concertina covers for the bridge-mounted X and Z-axes and rubber bellows for the C-axis on the universal head.For example, a Zeeko machine is being used to polish and form-correct the first 1.45m hexagonal mirror segments that will make up the 42m primary mirror of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). Acknowledging its achievements, Zeeko received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2011 in the Innovation Category.

The two companies work closely together whenever a new machine is introduced.

Zeeko’s Design Engineer Yohann Tessier says: “We provide Beakbane with the machine specifications and drawings and they design and make all the protective covers to go on them. They are really good people to work with and if we have a problem they are very helpful in providing a solution.”

He says that one of the key requirements for the bellows and covers is that they should be completely waterproof. “We use very precise ball-screw axis drives and abrasive watery slurries to polish the optics. Any leak that let the slurry into the mechanism would create serious performance problems for us.”

The bellows and covers also have to operate very smoothly – the axis drives perform to micron accuracy along their full travel length – and the telescopic steel covers have been specially designed to cope with this.

“When the diamond slurry dries it sets like cement and this can cause the covers to stick. Beakbane has designed a special strengthened mechanism for the telescopic covers that overcomes this problem,” says Mr Tessier.

Zeeko’s intelligent robotic polisher. Image courtesy of Zeeko Ltd.

At a lesser performance-critical level, Beakbane has also come up with a white polymer fabric for its welded bellows (replacing the more normal black finish), so that that splashes of slurry on the covers (the Zeeko slurry is normally white in colour) doesn’t spoil the appearance of the machine.

Kidderminster-based Beakbane specialises in working with its customers to provide tailor-made systems to meet their specific requirements. As well as its know-how and experience it can also draw on a broad range of products, extensive in-house manufacturing facilities for sheet metal, polymers, fabric, rubber and composites. It also has its own design department with 2D and 3D SolidWorks and AutoCAD software.

Beakbane has been working with Zeeko since 2001. Other leading UK machine tool manufacturers that use bespoke Beakbane products include Heller and Yamazaki Mazak.

Further information on Zeeko’s polishing machines can be found here.